Since my postings about my struggles with FranceTelecom were intended as humorous [however far they may have fallen short of that mark], I do not want to go too deeply into the question of consumer satisfaction in a socialist state. That would be a bit like mounting a full-scale Foucault/Barthes/Derrida analysis of a Groucho Marx routine [something, I am sad to say, that has on occasion been produced by otherwise unoccupied cultural critics.] But on a lazy 4th of July morning, after an invigorating six kilometer walk at six a.m. through the streets of Paris, it might not be over the top to say just a few words about the comments provoked by my feeble attempts at humor.
First of all, my old friend Jim Smethurst is of course right about France and FranceTelecom. I cannot speak authoritatively about Verizon, but I do have a good deal of experience with Time Warner Cable, and save for the fact that I am fluent in English, there is not much to choose between the two experiences. Periodically my phone, internet, and TV service back home goes all weird, and the most helpful advice I get when I call the [to be sure toll free] tech assistance number is to unplug everything, wait two minutes, and plug it all in again. This, I might say, is the exact same advice I received here in Paris, thus exemplifying the globalization of consumer dissatisfaction.
But seriously, folks: Socialism has virtually nothing to do with retail merchandising and consumer satisfaction or dissatisfaction. It has everything to do with collective control of the means of production, and the guiding of investment and social savings decisions by considerations of human need rather than private profitablity. In the United States today, tens of millions of men, women, and children struggle in poverty while high-end gated communities sprout like toxic muchrooms. That is a malapportionment of social resources that results from the capitalist organization of the means of production.
Some state run bureaucratic operations run with astonishing efficiency in the complete absence of market regulation or the discipline of competition. Two striking examples are Medicare and the United States Army, both of which I have experienced personally. Some do rather less well. The Treansportation Security Administration comes to mind [the folks who cheerfully pat you down and feel you up on your way to an airplane.]
In a socialist society, there is plenty of room for your neighborhood grocery store, and also for Steve Jobs and Bill Gates [both of whom, so far as I am concerned, deserve to be very rich just as much as do LeBron James or Lady Gaga.]
Well, I am perilously close to attempting a literary critical analysis of a Groucho Marx routine, so I shall knock it off and have breakfast.